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By Paula Mitten Creator of Durga Yoga Teacher Training

As yoga teachers, our words hold so much power. Every cue, every instruction, and every affirmation we offer in our classes can significantly impact our students' experience on the mat. Clear and concise language plays a crucial role in guiding students through their practice safely and effectively. By choosing our words mindfully, we can create an environment that fosters understanding, prevents confusion, and minimizes the risk of injury. In this article, we will explore the significance of language in yoga teaching and emphasize the need for precise communication to enhance our teaching impact.

Creating Clarity

One of the primary goals of a yoga teacher is to ensure clarity in communication. By using precise language, we can help students understand the desired actions, alignments, and intentions in each pose. Vague or ambiguous cues can lead to confusion and hinder students' ability to fully engage with their practice. To promote clarity, focus on specific instructions that highlight the key elements of a posture, such as alignment, engagement, and breath. Think about not just what to do but some information on how to do it as well.

Example: Instead of saying, “reach arms up” at the beginning of a sun salutation try saying something like “Inhale and circle your arms out and up overhead bringing your palms to face each other.”

Cultivating Body Awareness

Clear and concise language assists students in developing a deeper sense of body awareness. By choosing words that accurately describe movement and sensation, we can guide them to connect mindfully with their body and make informed adjustments. This awareness helps students avoid unnecessary strain and potential injuries.

Example: Instead of saying, “listen to your body,” try guiding your student to an area in the body where them might be feeling the pose and inviting them to notice the sensation. Explain what they might be experiencing and how to know if they have gone too deep into the pose.

Encouraging Mindfulness

Yoga is not merely a physical practice but also an opportunity for mindfulness and self-reflection. The language we use can cultivate a sense of presence and guide students towards a more profound inward experience. By choosing words that encourage self-compassion, patience, and non-judgment, we create a safe space for exploration and growth.

Example: Instead of saying, “Your legs should be straight,” talk about going in the direction of straight and finding the perfect balance when it comes to sensation so it's not too much and not too little.

Promoting Safety

The precise language of a yoga teacher is essential for ensuring the safety of our students. When we articulate instructions clearly, we enable practitioners to move with proper alignment and minimise the risk of injury. Avoid using terms that may be unfamiliar to beginners or jargon that can confuse students. Offer modifications and alternatives whenever possible and emphasise the importance of finding the right variation for them.

Example: Instead of saying, “Move into the pose if it is in your practice,” give step by step instructions of ways to work towards the pose and clear guidelines on how to know whether to stop or go a step further.

As yoga teachers, our language serves as a bridge between our knowledge and our students' practice. By prioritising clear, concise, and mindful communication, we empower our students to navigate their yoga journey safely and effectively. The words we choose have the potential to inspire, motivate, and transform. Let's harness the power of language to create an empowering space where every student feels seen, supported, and able to fully embody their practice.

About Paula Mitten

Paula Mitten is an internationally recognised yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer. She’s the creator of Durga Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Teachers Masterclass. Paula is a teacher of teachers, teaching yoga for 18 years and facilitating teacher training at both entry level and advanced training since 2011. Paula's passion is encouraging self exploration and inner belief in her students and is committed to building a yoga community of support, connection and generosity. Paula offers live online classes through her Yoga Membership, Durga Yoga Online and free mini classes on her YouTube channel